The Church of Carl Rogers - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Church of Carl Rogers
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In the 1960s, the psychotherapist Carl Rogers popularized “encounter groups” and “client-centered therapy” and wrote influential essays on becoming the “self which one truly is.” He peddled this relativistic mumbo jumbo to Catholic religious orders, among other groups.

Many years back I interviewed William Coulson, a protégé of Rogers who accompanied him on his trips to nunneries and seminaries, where Rogers encouraged the religious to find their “real selves.” Many of them later did, often in the company of post-pubescent youth.

“[Our] theories made priests and nuns feel good about being bad,” Coulson said. He recalled the “sensitivity training” and “self-esteem” workshops that Rogers held for the Jesuits and Franciscans, both orders eager to embrace the self-indulgence of the 1960s.

“Once we began to peel the onion at these workshops, there was no end to the shocking things people would say,” he said. “They became persuaded of this subjective theory of morality which says that the highest morality is the one you locate within you. And after a while these religious forgot about the teachings of the Church.”

“After our workshop at Alma [the Jesuit seminary then in California], one of the young Jesuits wrote, ‘Never in my life before that group experience had I experienced me so intently,’” Coulson continued. “The Franciscans were so enamored with our psychology that they introduced it to Saint Anthony’s seminary in Santa Barbara. Years later, 11 or 12 friars were accused of molesting 34 high school boys. I’m afraid we planted the seeds and they carried the seeds to the next generation and they germinated.”

Passages in “The Joy of Love,” the latest flaky papal exhortation, read like excerpts from the works of Carl Rogers. The prototypical post-Vatican II Jesuit, Pope Francis flatters the “Me” generations with tributes to the primacy of conscience. He rebukes priests for seeing sin in “black and white” and applying “overly rigid classifications” to adultery, while encouraging the shacked-up to carry out “their own discernment.”

Many bad popes of the past committed mortal sin. Modernity’s bad pope is the first to bless it. Cravenly placed in one of the document’s footnotes is an explicit endorsement of adultery: “…many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers.’”

The document is strewn with self-indulgent sophistries that would have brought a smile to the face of Carl Rogers. Contained within “irregular unions” are seeds of goodness, argues Pope Francis: “Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”

Translation: Keep sinning and feel good about it. Like Francis, Rogers put a noble gloss on the sexual revolution, casting its deviations from traditional morality as “struggles for a better partnership.” In language anticipating Francis’s, Rogers fretted over the wounds that come from the “ever-present shadow of moral reproach.”

Rogers searched for his true self, according to Coulson, by flirting with fetching members of his encounter groups as his wife lay dying in bed. Rogers’s daughter found her true self by busting up her marriage and deserting her kids. According to Coulson, Rogers, at moments, came to rue his theory. Coulson quotes Rogers as saying, “I greatly underestimated the reality of evil,” and that I “hope Rogerian theory goes down the drain.”

But it hasn’t. His destructive psychological prattle has resurfaced in, of all places, a papal document. Pope Francis, we’re told by his media courtiers, is “leading the Church into the future.” Actually, he is freezing the Church in the recent past, the 1960s and its culture of selfishness and nonjudgmentalism. The church of Pope Francis is the church of Carl Rogers and from its corridors come not the smell of fresh air but what Paul VI called the “smoke of Satan.”

George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is author most recently of The Biden Deception: Moderate, Opportunist, or the Democrats' Crypto-Socialist?
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